HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 21, 2011, 5 p.m.

Burt Herman: In the coming year, social media journalists will #Occupythenews

In the real-time news cycle, social media can — and should — be about much more than conversation.
Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2011 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Next up is Burt Herman, the founder of Hacks/Hackers and the co-founder of Storify.

Social media’s essential role in serious journalism can no longer be ignored. Next year, social media journalism will finally grow up.

Journalism will be more collaborative, embracing the fundamental social nature of the Internet. The story will be shaped by people involved in the news, curated by savvy editors from diverse sources and circulated back again to the audience. This is the new real-time news cycle.

It is telling and fitting that next year’s Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting will be judged for the first time based on real-time reporting. A Pulitzer Prize for tweeting was a joke just a few years ago. It’s now a reality.

Take Occupy Wall Street. Even in New York, with its swarms of professional journalists, social media illuminated the protests and insured that the movement’s story was told. When police blocked media access and detained card-carrying members of the press, live-streamed videos from participants and students curating social media stepped in.

Looking at the Occupy movement itself hints at where journalism will go in its decentralized, real-time, collaborative, and curated future.

Decentralized

News will break on whatever website or format lends itself to the story, and be even more likely to happen away from news organizations’ homepages. Whether via a Livestream feed, an answer to a Quora question, or an Instagram photo, the story will splinter further, evolving from a singular product into something much more dynamic and multi-dimensional.

Real-time

Audiences expect to see news at Internet speed, and have no patience for conventional journalists to wake up to this reality. News consumers should be able to learn about important issues as quickly as they can see what a friend is listening to on Spotify through Facebook’s new seamless social sharing.

Collaborative

With the decline in journalism staffs, the audiences and participants involved in the news are also more involved than ever before in telling their own stories. Reporters will increasingly open their process and discuss stories as they’re developing; they’ll also be more willing to talk candidly about what they do and don’t know. They will increasingly crowdsource their coverage, asking their audiences for input in their stories. And they’ll become more collaborative with fellow journalists, as well, soliciting information and sharing their work.

Curated

Bringing all these elements together will underscore the importance of curation. Journalists have always taken masses of information and condensed it into something digestible for readers, adding context and insights. More than ever, journalists will curate sources outside their newsrooms to tell their stories.

Social media journalism can do better than snark. Following the death this week of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, there were the usual social media roundups of clever one-liners and LOLcat mashups. But we need to push the boundaries of how social media can be used to report on an event that throws an entire continent into a state of uncertainty over a potentially unstable, nuclear-armed state.

The protesters occupied Wall Street to prompt a national debate on widening disparities in wealth and opportunity. It’s up to the new generation of social media journalists to #Occupythenews — and to make sure society doesn’t miss the stories that, diffuse and elusive though they may be, are crucial to understanding our world.

POSTED     Dec. 21, 2011, 5 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Predictions for Journalism 2012
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚